Mazu - The Goddess of the Sea
Mazu is the most worshipped sea goddess in China's costal areas, especially in the southeast and Taiwan islands.
Many people in China's south-eastern coastal areas and Taiwan Island live by fishing. Day in and day out, they sail on the turbulent sea, which is very dangerous. Fishermen all hope to safely return with a big catch every time they set out. So, they've created a sea goddess for blessing and protection. The goddess is Mazu, which is also known as "Heavenly Queen".
Every year, on the 23rd day of the third lunar month, which is said to be the birthday of Mazu, fishermen go to the Mazu temple to worship the goddess with great piety instead of going fishing on the sea. The image of Mazu is a kind-looking lady wearing a crown and a dragon robe. On the Mazu Festival, some middle-aged and elderly women dress up in traditional style by wearing a flat hair coil, red coat and black pants. These devout women burn incense to pay tribute to Mazu.
According to legend, originally named Moniang, Mazu was the daughter of Lin Yuan, the superintendent of Fujian in the early Northern Song Dynasty. Her name Moniang means "silent girl", because she didn't cry at birth. In her early teens, she began to burn incense and chant sutras. At the age of 16, she was given a bronze talisman by an immortal and she then achieved Taoist success and became an immortal herself. She performed a lot of magical feats. At 28, she ascended Meifeng Peak, where she became a divinity. After that, Moniang roamed about the country, rescuing and helping fishermen in distress at sea. Local fishermen built a temple in Moniang's hometown—Meizhou Island, to pay respect to her. And she was honored as "Mazu".
In Minnan dialect, "ma" is a respectful form of addressing an elderly or venerable woman; "mazu" means "grandmother", which is an expression of ultimate respect.
In the Yuan Dynasty, along with the speedy development of marine trade, people in northern provinces also began to worship Mazu for safe sailing. After the Ming and Qing Dynasties, private navigational trade led to the spreading of Mazu worship to Southeast Asian nations. Mazu thus became the protection goddess of Chinese people in all countries. According to statistics, there are over 0.2 bln Mazu devotees across the world. The goddess is not only worshipped in coastal areas of Fujian and Taiwan, but also worshipped in overseas places with sizable Chinese populations, such as Southeast Asian nations and America’s Honolulu, where Mazu temples have been built.